Whaley Bridge dam: Twenty-two households refuse to leave

Media caption,
Water is being pumped away from the reservoir and sandbags are still being dropped

Twenty-two households have refused to leave a Derbyshire town despite being warned a damaged dam is at risk of bursting, police have said.

The 31 Whaley Bridge residents have been urged to leave by police, who say they are putting their own lives, and the emergency services', at risk.

Around 1,500 people have been evacuated after part of a dam ruptured on Thursday.

Teams are working round the clock to pump water from Toddbrook Reservoir.

Forecasters had warned that 30-40mm (1.2-1.6in) of rain could fall in two hours on Sunday night, and the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for much of northern England and the Midlands.

But Whaley Bridge saw just a light shower before midnight, and has so far avoided the thundery downpours which passed through the area.

Police said the "risk of adverse weather" was to blame for the most recent evacuations, but that the dam was still unstable.

Derbyshire Police deputy chief constable Rachel Swann urged "in the strongest terms" people still in the evacuation zone to leave.

She said: "We've not evacuated this for no reason. We've evacuated this because there is a real prospect that the dam could fail, and if it fails it is catastrophic.

"People would die if they were in that evacuation zone. So those people who remain in that zone are putting their lives at risk.

"They are also putting the lives of the responders, primarily the police, at risk because we have to keep going in and speaking to them and asking them to leave."

Image caption,
Deputy chief constable Rachel Swann says the dam bursting would be "catastrophic"

She also told a meeting for residents on Sunday that in the "worst case scenario" they would be out of their homes for a week.

The Canal and River Trust said water in the reservoir needed to get down to 8m below the normal level. It stood at 3.8m below normal and was being lowered 2m every 24 hours.

Derbyshire chief fire officer Terry McDermott told the meeting that specialist engineers had monitored the dam wall 24 hours a day with lasers and there had been "no significant deflection" in the wall.

He added that six rescue boats had been deployed in the region in case the dam bursts.

On Saturday, people were allowed briefly into their homes to collect pets and essentials, but were warned they would be doing so at their own risk.

One resident per household was escorted by police back into their homes for 15 minutes.

Image source, Derbyshire Fire and Rescue
Image caption,
Twenty-four large pumps are now lowering the water level by 10 cm an hour

Some 1,500 people in Whaley Bridge had sought shelter elsewhere after part of the reservoir's spillway broke away on Thursday.

Father Jamie Mcleod, who lives in the town, said he had hardly slept for three days, taking supplies to the emergency workers.

He was there at the start of the crisis when he went to check the dam after days of heavy rain.

"When I was over there it started to crack," he said. "When it got worse I went over to the council and raised the alarm and said, 'We have to evacuate the village'.

"We then went back to the reservoir and, of course, the police then came and procedures were put in place.

"At the time I really thought the village was going to go.

"Then it really struck me there is a school at the bottom of the dam and last week that playground was full."

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Twenty-four pumps are working and more than a third of the reservoir's water has been removed since Thursday.

The army and police officers have also visited residents in nearby Marple, issuing flooding advice.

Emergency responders are planning and preparing for a "potential incident" but were not yet evacuating that area.

An RAF Chinook helicopter has placed 525 one-tonne bags to strengthen the dam wall and regulate water flow.

Police, the Environment Agency, and the Canal and River Trust have all said there is a "real risk" the 188-year-old dam could collapse and flood the town.

The trust has defended the maintenance and safety of the structure, which was built in 1831.

Image source, Derbyshire Fire and Rescue
Image caption,
Emergency services and volunteers have been working around the clock

BBC Local Radio news special on the emergency in Whaley Bridge and surrounding areas near the River Goyt on BBC Radio Manchester, Sheffield and Derby from 18:00 through the night. Reporters in key areas and regular updates from emergency services.

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